The current eastern turn of the Kremlin and its accentuated attention to the fate of the Russian Far East raises a series of legitimate questions about the nature, content and potential results of this phenomenon. Is there any reason to talk about a fundamentally new strategy of Russia in the Pacific Ocean, or is Russia itself and the world proposed a modification of the old imperial policy?
The last but not the first decision on the accelerated development of the Far East was taken by the Russian Security Council on December 20 2006. He was preceded by an assessment of the situation in the region as critical and threatening the national interests of the state. Addressing members of the council, Vladimir Putin formulated the thesis that population decline, deep disproportions in the region’s production structure and foreign economic relations, inefficient use of its natural competitive advantages pose a serious threat to our political and economic positions in the Asia-Pacific region and national security. Russia as a whole.
Familiar promise. Even a preliminary look at history shows that one of the main (if not the main) factors that in former times forced the center to engage closely in the eastern outskirts of the country was the threat of their loss, which came from outside.
In the Siberian and Far Eastern epic of Russia, whose history dates back to the end of the 15th century, two major stages are clearly visible. The first, socio-economic, falls on the beginning of the XVI - first half of the XIX century. During these years, predominantly spontaneous development of Siberia and only to a small degree of the Far East took place. To the east, Russia was then driven by two factors: the material interest of the treasury (Siberian fur and income from caravan trade with China) on the one hand, and the energy of “eager” people, the free-will colonization of people on the other. Climate, distance and opposition from Beijing have become a major deterrent.
The next stage of this policy, imperial, military-strategic, falls on the second half of the 19th and 20th centuries. By signing a series of treaties with China and Japan and taking possession of the Pacific coast of Northeast Asia, Russia presented itself to the world as a Pacific and global power. The nature of this stage was determined by the strategic interests of St. Petersburg and then Moscow, their desire to expand their security perimeter, strengthen their positions and influence in Asia and defend Russia's gains in this region of the world.
If at the previous stage, East Asia was a remote place, from the point of view of European politicians, then from the 19th century 40, the leading European states and the USA designated it as their primary interest, step by step revealing stagnant Asian states to the West. Naturally, from the middle of the 19th century, Russian possessions in the Pacific turned out to be in the focus of attention and interests of major powers, primarily Great Britain. It was then that Petersburg faced a dual problem in full growth, over which the Russian state had been fighting for a century and a half: maintaining the status of a Pacific power and ensuring the security of the eastern suburbs.
Attempts to solve this problem have been made since then repeatedly, but not systematically and systematically, but from time to time, once in 25 – 30 years. In each of these cases, the center’s increased attention to the region was aggravated by the military-political situation in eastern Russia, and the impetus forcing the center to plunge into East Asian and Far Eastern realities was one or a set of events perceived in the capital as a threat to Russian possessions in the Pacific.
Each time the center fuse was maintained for eight to ten years. During this time, the danger receded or weakened to an uncritical value, after which the interest of the metropolitan bureaucracy towards the region faded away, the government switched its eyes to the west or south of the country, and the Far East passed to the stage of inertial development. Forces, funds, time and desire for the planned development of this vast territory of the state never had enough. The paradox of history also lay in the fact that each cycle existed as if for the first time, and the experience of previous attempts and the lessons learned by the predecessors turned out to be forgotten and almost unclaimed.
Very soon after the inclusion of the north-eastern outskirts of Eurasia in the Russian state, it became obvious that this territory has the minimum resource (climate, political, demographic, financial) for self-development. The trends of its movement largely depended on the imperial interests of the center, the ideological views of the country's leadership, state policy and only to a small extent on the needs, opportunities, energy and activities of the people who inhabited it. These three factors were not constant values, changed under the influence of the internal situation in the country and the international situation, but they determined the cyclical nature of the Far Eastern policy of the Russian state, already noted by historians and economists.
At the same time, the east coast of Russia has always played an important role in its Pacific policy. One of the main factors that always determined the fate of Pacific Russia was the idea of statehood or, in modern terms, the desire of the Russian political elite to own a vast territory, acting for it as the main indicator of influence in international affairs. This territory was perceived not only as the eastern border of Russia, but at the same time as a potential base for further expansion to the east.
The idea of statehood forced the center to constantly keep in mind the situation on the eastern outskirts of the state, from time to time publicly declare the importance of this territory for Russia, as well as the need to strengthen the Pacific vector of its foreign policy and the development of the Far East. However, from such political declarations and theoretical justifications, even if recorded in documents of the highest level, to concrete actions, there was a great distance. Already for the very presence of this territory as part of Russia, for ensuring its security, the state should pay and pay a lot. Its development and development required even more funds, which were always lacking. Therefore, active actions against the region were carried out only when the threats were recognized at the highest level. The purpose and essence of these actions was to strengthen the position of Russia on the Far Eastern shores and remove the real or potential threats to its security.
Leaving the period up to the middle of the XIX century, we turn to the military-strategic stage of the colonization of the Russian Far East by Russia.
Fight for Cupid
The importance of the Amur River as the most convenient road to the Pacific Ocean was realized by the Russian government by the middle of the 20 of the XVIII century. However, the real interest of St. Petersburg to the Amur region arose only at the end of the nineteenth century of the XIX century and was directly caused by the activity of the European powers in East Asia. The reasons were not only the results of the first "opium war" of England and France with China. Serious concern of St. Petersburg caused the British plans to engage in the colonization of Cupid. Moreover, there were big fears that Russia could lose Siberia in general.
It was to this idea that the Tsar's court was led by the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, Nikolai Muravyov. In one of the first reports to Nicholas I, he focused the attention of the emperor on the threat of losing this region to Russia. The governor-general designated the main source of threat: the activity of the British on Amur, who, under the guise of simple-minded tourists or innocent adherents of science, are exploring everything the British government needs to know.
The Crimean War and the threat to the Russian possessions on Kamchatka and on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk forced Russia to take concrete actions in the east. In 1854 – 1856, Muravyov threw reinforcements three times across the Amur, weapon, equipment to Kamchatka, which made it possible to repel the attacks of the Anglo-French squadron on the Russian possessions in the Pacific (Petropavlovsk). After Russia's defeat in the Crimean War, an influential group emerged in the Russian government (Chancellor Prince Alexander Gorchakov, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich), who advocated the immediate implementation of measures to strengthen Russia's position in the Far East, and the plans of the Americans, as before, to colonize the Amur Region more strengthened the determination of Petersburg to seize Amur. The result was the signing of the Aigunsky (1858) and Beijing (1860) treaties with China, which secured the territory of the Amur Region to Russia.
However, on this the progress of Russia to the east actually ended. The attention of the royal court was shifted to internal problems, and in foreign policy to Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. With the resignation of Eastern Siberia Governor-General Nikolai Muravyov in 1861, the Far East lost an active and influential lobbyist of its interests in the center. In 1867, Russia sold its North American ownership to the United States. For a quarter of a century, the Far East was in the shadow of Russia's foreign and domestic policy.
The peculiarity and tragedy of the second period of Russia's activity in the east consisted, on the one hand, in the long unavailability and inability of the royal court to identify the true enemy, on the other, in the unsuccessful choice of the way to deal with threats to the interests of Russia, and in the third, the removal of the main sphere of activity beyond the Russian border. . It is natural that the scenario of events differed from the previous one if only because much attention was not paid to the development of the Russian Far East itself during this period.
By the end of the 19th century, Russian diplomacy did not see a serious danger from either dormant China or in the face of Japan, which was gaining weight quickly. Even assuming the possibility of war, Russian diplomats and military were absolutely confident in the victory of Russian weapons. To a greater degree Petersburg feared the machinations of England and the strengthening of the US position in China. The aggravation of relations with China in the 1880 year (because of the Ili region), in which British diplomacy played not the last violin, and the activity of Britain and the USA near the Russian border on the Korean Peninsula reinforced these suspicions. The threat of conflict with England and the obvious weakness of Russia's Far Eastern borders, the impossibility of a quick replenishment and uninterrupted supply of the army forced the royal court to turn to the idea of building the Siberian railway, which was laid in May 1891 of the year in Vladivostok. However, an incorrect assessment by the tsarist government of its own capabilities and sources of threats led to an erroneous choice of means to combat them. The rate, as in the middle of the XIX century, was made on the territorial expansion, further expansion of the borders of Russia, and not on the development and strengthening of existing possessions and resources in the east.
The new stage of active Russian policy in the Far East was caused by the outcome of the Japanese-Chinese war of 1894 – 1895, as a result of which Japan became the dominant force in Northeast Asia. The Tsar's court directed the main efforts and means to participate in the section of China, the construction of railways in Manchuria: Chinese Eastern (CER) and South Manchuria (MZHD), as well as the arrangement of the X-Numxes leased from China to Port Arthur and Far as a new springboard for Russian expansion in East Asia. At the same time, however, the fathers of Russia's Far Eastern policy continued to see the main threat to their plans not in Japan, but in England.
Transferring the defensive lines of Russia outside the Russian territory, the tsarist government lost. Only the defeat of the 1904 – 1905 Russian-Japanese war forced Petersburg to abandon this strategy and engage in strengthening the defense capacity of the Amur region. The main emphasis in ensuring the security of the region was made on the settlement of its Russian. Measures have been taken to strengthen the peasant colonization of the region, the construction of the Amur Railway has been intensified, the influx of Russian workers has been stimulated, and efforts have been made to develop agriculture, trade and industry.
Nevertheless, although in 1909 – 1914 years, government spending in the Far East has doubled (from 55 to 105 million rubles a year), this period in the history of Pacific Russia is difficult to call particularly intense. Too much energy and emotion was spent on projects outside of Russian territory, Manchuria and the CER, and not the Russian Far East, continued to attract both forces and capital. On the other hand, the notions that Russia in general would have to withdraw from the shores of the Pacific Ocean that had spread after the defeat in the war with Japan in metropolitan circles did not add enthusiasm.
If the first phase of Russia's activity in the Pacific was provoked by England, and the second by England, the United States and Japan, the third was the policy of Japanese militarism in China. The beginning of the direct Japanese aggression in Manchuria (September 1931 of the year) forced the Kremlin to take urgent measures to strengthen the Soviet Far East. In the autumn of 1931, the Committee of Defense at the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR decided to strengthen the defense of the Far East, in December a special commission was assembled to develop measures to reduce the military danger in the region. In April, the Marine Forces of the Far East were created by 1932, the 1933 adopted the decree “On the first stage measures to strengthen the Special Red Banner Far Eastern Army (OKDVA)”, which provided for the construction of fortified areas, airfields, fuel depots, strategic roads, warehouses, air defense facilities .
The military industry was created most actively. The share of investment in the economy of the Far East in the total investment in the national economy of the USSR increased annually. Already in 1932, the cost of capital construction in the region exceeded the level of 1928 in five times, in 1937-m - in 22,5 times. Resources were directed primarily to the creation of military infrastructure and military industry. 13 April 1932, the Council of People's Commissars decided to build a facility of special importance - the Baikal-Amur Mainline. At the same time, Stalin openly justified the active construction in the Far East of the growing threat from Japan.
An important means of ensuring the defense capability of the region during this period was an increase in the number and reorganization of its population structure. The migration policy of the Soviet state was primarily of geopolitical importance, and was aimed at ensuring the security of the eastern border of the USSR by forming a reliable, mobile and ready-to-solve human resource on it. At first, squeezing, and in 1937 – 1938, the deportation of Chinese and Koreans, the eviction of unreliable elements, Komsomol appeals and organizaires led to a noticeable increase in the population of the Far East (for example, in the Khabarovsk Territory it increased from 1933 to 1939 per year by 87,1 percent), prevailing Slavic ethnos, men (72 women on 100 men) and people of working age (41 percentage of the population - aged 20 to 34 years). The region, where peasant farmers dominated at the end of the 20s, turned into the territory of hired workers and collective farmers.
Started in Europe in 1939, the Second World War again shifted the Kremlin’s main attention to the west, but the defensive potential created in the Far East in 30 in the Far East, as well as the sensitive defeats that the Soviet troops inflicted on the Japanese army in the battles at Hasan Lake in 1938 and the Khalkhin Gol River (Mongolia) in 1939, helped keep Japan from starting a war against the USSR.
The next period of increased attention to the region falls at the time of the Cultural Revolution and the heyday of anti-Sovietism in China, as well as the war in Vietnam. The anti-Soviet rhetoric of Beijing and the aggravation of the situation on the Soviet-Chinese border forced the Soviet leadership to pay close attention to the Far East. In the spring of 1967, the Kremlin returned to the idea of building BAM. The prevailing were military and political considerations, before which the economic feasibility of the project receded into the background. Construction began in 1974. In July, 1967 and May 1972, two resolutions of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers on the integrated development of the Far East were adopted. Significantly increased investment in the region.
Moscow reanimated the idea of “demographic strengthening” of the border with the PRC, for which it was decided to resettle in 1967 – 1970 years voluntarily into collective and state farms of the Khabarovsk and Primorye Territories, Amur and Chita regions of 23,9 thousands of families. In 1972, in the southern regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia, northern allowances were introduced, also designed to consolidate the population on the border with China. As a result, in this decade the migration increase in the Far East was the highest in the entire post-war history - 1,4 million people.
The military potential of the region has significantly strengthened. Since May 1969, the construction of fortified areas began throughout the entire Sino-Soviet border. The grouping of border troops on the border with China grew from 10,3 thousand people in 1965 to 51,3 thousand in 1970. The Ground Forces increased from about 15 divisions in the mid-60s to over 60 divisions in the early 80s. SS-20 missiles were deployed in the region. Pacific fleet evolved from flotilla coastal defense with a strength of 50 thousand people in the largest and most powerful component of the Navy of the USSR, which had 800 ships and 150 thousand sailors and operated throughout the space from Madagascar to California.
The completion of the Vietnam War in 1975, the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the change of power in the People's Republic of China, the normalization of Soviet-Chinese relations seriously eased tensions on the eastern border of the USSR. At the same time, the Kremlin’s relations with the United States and Western Europe became strained. Already in the second half of 70, the interest of the Soviet leadership towards the Far East has noticeably decreased. In the next three decades, the leadership of the USSR, and then the Russian Federation, did not leave the Far East without attention, but mainly in words. Moscow was clearly not up to this distant territory. The regional development programs (on 1986 – 2000 and 1996 – 2005) remained largely on paper, and in the 90, the Far East was almost abandoned and survived by its own forces and resources.
Judging by a variety of factors, the current increased attention of the Kremlin to the Far East is a somewhat different phenomenon than in the cases described above. If at that time the center was concerned with the increment or protection of the state’s territory, today the question is about its future.